Susie Fogelson is in charge of branding the Food Network, but food is just the jumping-off point for her.
“Food is so broad,” says the VP of marketing. “If I think about the things that go with food—film, music, sports—then I have to consider how I can cast the widest net to bring food into unexpected places with great partners.”
So, while her co-worker, Greg Neal, was hard at work rebranding the network's primetime, Fogelson was recruiting marketing partners to bring that new brand out into the world.
Besides print and outdoor campaigns, Fogelson has been focusing on forming partnerships with non-traditional partners, such as film studios. “Movies are big, sexy, aspirational brands. Movies tap right into pop culture,” she says.
For example, the network teamed with Sony Entertainment Pictures to launch Will Ferrell-starrer Talladega Nights: The Legend of Ricky Bobby. One of Food Network's superstar chefs, Mario Batali, had just launched a NASCAR-themed cookbook, making the partnership a perfect fit.
Food Network has worked with Paramount on promotions for Mission Impossible: 3, with Tom Cruise, and Last Holiday, starring Queen Latifah and featuring Food Network favorite Emeril Lagasse in a cameo.
Currently, the network is working on co-branding efforts with Warner Bros. for No Reservations, starring Catherine Zeta-Jones and Aaron Eckhardt as chefs who fall in love; and with Disney and Pixar on animated feature Ratatouille, about a rat that lives in the walls of a Paris restaurant and aspires to become a chef.
“Food Network really hits our audience when we are looking at appealing to women,” says Gail Silverman, senior publicist at Paramount Pictures. “And Susie is very accessible, very creative, and very easy to work with because she's flexible. She's able to offer the give-and-take necessary to come up with a plan in which both parties can agree.”
But the UCLA grad has made a point of getting Food Network in front of men. Last winter, Ace of Cakes star Duff Goldman baked “the mother of all cakes at the Super Bowl, a great way for the NFL to promote itself and for the show to have a great second-season finale.”
Says Senior VP of Marketing and Creative Services Michael Smith, “Susie's done really well in coming up with these marketing partnerships. They help us get exposure without spending a lot of our own money.”
In fact, he adds, company research shows that perception about Food Network has changed radically. In late 2005, 69% of people surveyed said the channel offered only cooking shows; 31% said it had many types. When the survey was performed again in 2006, “the numbers had flipped,” says Smith.
“It's all about having a love for the category,” says Fogelson, who has been married to Gary Nelson for six years and has a 2-year-old named Isabelle. “Food is a really positive place to be.”